By the middle of May even more things come into bloom, the pace is never faster than between now and the end of June.
A peony seedling flowers for the first time, it is one of four that flowered from a batch of seeds from the American Peony Society. Most are lactiflora hybrids and I anticipate many more blooming next year in a variety of colors and forms.
Matthiola incana alba from left over NARGS seeds has amazingly fragrant white flowers, here a "winter" flowering pansy from Chilterns blooms beneath it. The Matthiola appears to be the wild form of stock which is more often seen as a cut flower around here. Unlike its cut flower derivations, the wild form seems tougher, blooming its second year but appearing to be perennial. This winter will be harsher than last so it remains to be seen how they will fare but they set lots of seeds so I anticipate more will sprout this coming spring.
Aquilegia caerulea and hybrids thereof come into bloom, it is their second blooming season here.
This is the mountain columbine of Colorado, these seeds came from NARGS and some variations appeared which is expected when different aquilegias grow together as they often hybridize. There are quite a few other species near them so it will become a lovely mix of many mongrels in the future.
Elsewhere another aquilegia flowers, this one is probably a white form of A vulgaris.
Jasminum parkeri had the most flowers ever this May since I have had it. No doubt the mild winter helped, it is evergreen but can suffer somewhat in very cold winters. I've had this plant for a while and it moved with us to this house, but it really took off when it got here. After flowering I cut it back as it was beginning to encroach on neighbors and it also suckers so that has to be watched. It is not too fast growing however so it takes a while for it to get to a decent size from a small plant.
Paeonia veitchii is another now you see it now you don't flower. Although the blooms are short lived, the foliage is rather interesting for a peony.
This is probably a pink form of Aquilegia flabellata var pumila, a rather small growing one from Japan that is usually blue and white but always reliable.
This low growing penstemon species puts on a nice show, its one of many I grow from seed.
In the sand bed (read sand pile) out front a western Eriogonum species comes into bloom. It likes this spot where its roots can go deep and tap actual soil below if it wants, but it can keep its crown dry as many western plants seem to like.
Salvia greggii (I think this is "Furman's Red" not only survived the mild winter, it kept its foliage so it was quick to begin blooming again. It will flower all year and become quite stunning later on. Different selections of Salvia greggii and its hybrids with microphylla (x jamensis) vary in winter hardiness here. They often die back and resprout, and survival can be assisted with a winter mulch that is removed in early April. Any of them give a lot of color and are easily propagated from seeds and cuttings.
This Artemesia sp came without a specific name, but I think it was from one of the Czech collectors. Maybe I will get the name later on but it likes the base of the sand pile. It does well in well drained soils too. The flowers should be cut off after it blooms or even before as the silvery leaves are the main attraction, though I like the flowers too.
This aquilegia hybrid must have come from some seeds I planted, it is a vigorous plant with double flowers of a sort.
The aquilegia was between two of three azaleas planted in front of the porch by the previous owners. Later I took out the white azalea as I don't like how the flowers fade and turn a dirty brown against the light green foliage. Plus white and orange don't mix well, especially with the white porch behind them. Over time I will replace some of the woodies that I have removed with more choice things, but I doubt I will let the garden get as overgrown as it was when we arrived. There were many huge bushes here which looked pretty in spring but the for the rest of the growing season were not interesting. I also know that it is easy to plant too many woody plants and then end up with not enough sun to grow the annuals and perennials that I like so much so I have to keep that in mind and edit as I go along from year to year.
Speaking of editing, the Phuopsis stylosa I moved to the front from where it is planted out back has grown vigorously, forming a green mat of foliage that will soon be studded with pink flowers. I have a light pink clone from Wave Hill and also darker pink clones I grew from SRGC seeds. I like the latter better and for this species it seems two or more clones are needed to set seed. It might make a useful lawn substitute as well. Behind it against the house there are two double flowered azaleas flanking a crepe myrtle. The latter will flower later in summer and after flowering it got a good cut back. I like crepe myrtles but I don't like where this one was planted by the former owners. I would prefer to move it to the property boundaries where it could grow to its full potential and not block our living room window. One day I will propagate or move it.
Crinum "Super Ellen" awakens from her long slumber under a wood chip mulch. Reputed to be as hardy or nearly as hardy as C. bulbispermum, "Super Ellen" has large pink flowers in summer. So far I have not been able to set seeds on it but some supposedly have had limited success.
The planter out front came with the property but I redid it to make it into a mini rock garden. Two eriogonums are in bloom, one the same as the species in the sand pile and the other a smaller yellow flowered species.
In the back gardens seed grown Dictamnus albus, the Gas Plant, is peaking. It will make star shaped seed pods that will audibly expel the seeds when ripe. This is an easy to grow and long lived perennial that is rarely seen since it takes a while to germinate and grow to flowering size. It will never look good in a nursery pot but if the seeds are put in ziplocks and moist vermiculite or sphagnum and refrigerated they eventually will sprout. They can then be planted into pots and grown on until they are big enough to put into the ground. No pest bothers them although I have read that brushing against the foliage can cause photodermatitis in susceptible individuals. So far I have not had that problem. It also gives off VOCs (volatile organic compounds--my APES students should know what that is, lol) that can cause a lit match to flame if put close to the plant on a still hot summer evening. I haven't' tried that myself yet. This plant is also one of those that does not like to be moved and as far as I am concerned it can stay right where it is.
One day I will have to move or trim this Opuntia but it makes a good companion so far for the delospermas beneath it. Its long spines keep marauding deer away when they occasionally breach the netting around the back and squirrels do not try to bury things near it. Of course, weeding must be done with care around it too.
This rhododendron has gotten pruned and it is in full sun but it flowers very well every year. I don't like it blocking the view of the waterlily pool but for now it is okay where it is.
Bergeranthus katbergensis came from Panayoti's garden as seeds and this one managed to get through winter just fine. I normally dig them up and pot them in sand and put them in the cold frame for winter to protect them from wet weather until its time to go out into the gardens again. The mild winter plus a bit of wood chips nearby must have helped this one survive. They flower off and on all spring and summer and make copious seeds. The seeds germinate freely when planted and the plants will flower in their first season. They are rock hardy in Denver but here they seem to need drier winter conditions when we get very cold winters.
A Rosa species of some sort blooms in what was a vegetable garden before we got the property. I grew it from seed but have lost track of what it is.
Just outside the chicken wire fence of the old vegetable garden I planted this blackberry I got from a Berkshire NARGS chapter sale. It became a beast, growing huge canes in every direction so I got it to mostly stay on the fence. We got blackberries from it which were not all that flavorful to be honest. I had to protect the fruit with mesh to keep birds away but after it fruited I cut it way back so it is a small remnant of what it was when this photo was taken. I also didn't want it to overgrow the Lonicera dioca on the fence either.
A colorful trio here of dark blue purple Aquilegia vulgaris, pink Chaerophyllum hirsutum roseum, and powder blue Phlox divaricata come into bloom.
A clump of the old fashioned Iris variegata comes into bloom along with Amsonia tabernaemontana. Both are forever plants.
Geranium x cantabrigiense Biokovo comes into bloom. It is a dwarf natural hybrid of G.macrorrhizum and G dalmaticum. It gets from the former its toughness and tolerance for dry soils and shade. It spreads out to make a nice low growing groundcover but I havent seen any seeds on it yet.
Gerbera jamesonii, the Barberton daisy, comes into bloom a few weeks after its thick winter mulch was removed. It will flower all season long. If the roots are protected from deep ground freezing, they are perennial. I like this wild form better than the cultivated sorts which have flowers that lack the grace of the wild ones. I have crossed this species with the cultivated kinds and with another species to get an interesting array of plants.
Gerbera ambigua is a bit hardier than jamesonii but I give it a thick winter mulch anyway to be sure that I can enjoy the spring flowers. It tends to flower mainly in spring without as much repeat bloom as jamesonii. Hybrids between the two tend to be more like jamesonii in flower but the leaves show the influence of ambigua.
Indoors there are still plants growing under lights, these are a pink Pelargonium rapaceum and a yellow hybrid I made between P. oblongatum and a yellow form of P rapaceum. In common with most of the tuberous pelargoniums, these are winter growers which will go dormant and sleep for summer in the garage until the cooler days of September and October signal that it is time to water them again and repeat the cycle.
Pelargonium ochroleucum flowers for a few weeks indoors at this time. Its flowers are small but strikingly bicolored. Different clones appear to be best to ensure good seed set with this species.
Phuopsis stylosa starts to bloom before May is over. This is one of the darker pink clones that I favor.
Crepis incana is a lovely little annual that resembles a pink dandelion. It does need protection from nibbling mammals though. The long thin dandelion like seeds are so slender that one might think they are inviable but that is what good seed of this species looks like.
I would be remiss if I didn't post a photo of what appears to me to be a virused arilbred iris, Notice the darker streaks on the flower, that is typical of many bulb viruses. Pale yellow mottling can be seen in the foliage as well. So despite its beautiful color out it went shortly afterwards.
Amsonia hubrictii is a rare species in nature but it is getting around in gardens. It has rather fine narrow foliage topped by light blue flowers in spring. The much smaller Amsonia "Blue Ice" appeared as a sport or hybrid in a nursery and makes dark blue flowers over wider leaves. The latter does not produce seeds unlike any other Amsonia I have grown so I suppose it is an accidental hybrid of some sort. Amsonia seeds require a cool period before they sprout but they will reseed in gardens if they are happy. And they are forever since nothing bothers them. They resent being moved but it can be done in my experience.
This double Trillium grandiflorum came via way of gardening friends. It is supposed to have originally come from the late Harold Epstein's garden. I had never seen his gardens but I sure have heard about them, his epimedium collection among other things was legendary.
A Hedychium hybrid, probably based on H coccineum, emerges stronger than ever. Protected by its own dead foliage, wood chips, and a position right next to the house it has made it through several winters including a bad one or two. Later in summer the orange fragrant flowers appear on tall stems.
One of three Ploegbrekers (Plough Breaker), as it is called in Afrikaans, emerges after its thick winter mulch is removed. Erythrina zeyheri as it is known to botanists is the only totally herbaceous species in this genus of trees and shrubs with striking, usually red, spikes of flowers. It lives in the highveld of South Africa's summer rainfall regions where it endures frost in winter and grass fires. It is not unusual to find it growing in rather wet places when in growth in South Africa, though I assume those areas dry out during the winter. I have not heard of success with it anywhere else in the US but I know others are trying to grow it outside. I grew several in pots when I worked at NYBG and they still have them there, with their massive lignotubers no doubt filling the pots. But they never bloom in pots and I am told they still have not bloomed. So I put my potted plants into the ground, one three years ago, the others 2 years ago. I cover them with a very thick wood chip mulch and I plant the large lignotubers fairly deep with several inches of soil over the top. I suspect winter damp is not a problem so long as the tuber is protected from deep frost. Buds form on the lignotuber and grow when the soil warms, and I have gotten flowers every year outside but not on every plant each year. I am not entirely sure what stimulates a ploegbreker to flower or not but having even one in bloom is a real treat as you will see in later posts. Come fall the huge prickly leaves will die or be frosted back, a thick wood chip mulch applied, and the cycle will start again.
Acanthus sennii has lovely, if prickly, foliage and has survived against the house with winter protection. It bears amazing red flowers but the closest I have gotten to seeing them is colorful unopened buds later destroyed by frost. It is a real pity that this Ethiopian species flowers too late to be of much floral use this far north, but someone really should cross it with other, more drab colored, hardier and earlier flowering acanthus species to get that bold red color into easy to grow hybrids. Next to it a plant of Pelargonium sidoides, an almost black flowered plant with attractive low rosettes of grayish foliage, emerges from its tuberous roots. It is one of the hardiest pelargoniums, and is perennial if protected from deep freezes.
A lovely Pacific Coast Iris flowers for the first time. These hybrids based on species found mainly in California and Oregon are very pretty low growing irises. They have been bred such that they come in an amazing array of colors, color combinations, and flower shapes but are almost never seen outside of the West Coast, the UK, and New Zealand. The ancestral species include some that may not be so well adapted to cope with our winters and summers but some are, and by growing them from seed or getting divisions of plants proven to survive here they can be grown successfully. Breeding them here in the east would enable the creation of strains well adapted to our weather, which is needed since the best breeding has been done in very mild California conditions so many if not most of those varieties may not do well here. One other hindrance to their commercial success is that they need to be transplanted rather quickly when it is cool and they are in active growth, ideally early spring. They are not like bearded iris in that they cannot go bone dry before planting nor do they seem to like being divided up in the heat of summer. However, seeds are readily started under cool conditions indoors in fall or winter and can be transplanted to the garden in spring before it gets hot so they can establish themselves. Plants can bloom in three years from seeds.
Malcomia maritima is a small annual species of stock that is very quick to flower from seed. I planted some for the first time this year and they are quite charming little things. They flower for a decent period of time and produce copious seeds for self sowing. Their only fault is that they don't have the lovely fragrance of the better known garden stocks.
Before May comes to an end many dianthus species and hybrids come into bloom. I grew all the ones below from exchange seeds and am really pleased with the results. All they ask for is a sunny spot and well drained soil, minimal competition, and some effort to protect them from mammalian vermin. I have trouble keeping track of the species names, but just as well as they hybridize freely, sometimes producing even more wonderful plants.
Kniphifia northiae is a rather shy bloomer in New York and if it is going to flower it will be in May or thereabouts, and usually after a fairly mild winter. The bold foliage is reason enough to grow it and it is quite hardy. The foliage should be cut back after harsh winters which may ruin the outer leaves but this past winter was mild so very minimal trimming will be needed. Behind the kniphofia the new red leaves and older green leaves of a Berberis can be seen. I got it from Forest Farm I think and I have forgotten the name but am pretty sure it comes from Tibet. It was cut back severely and potted when we moved from the old house to here and it has done well. All the common Berberis thunbergiana that I found on this property were removed as it is an invasive plant in our local woodlands.